North Sails NEWS


Results are a culmination of many years working behind the scenes

📸 Andrea Lelli

Whether it’s the World Championship or a local Wednesday night, here at North Sails we thrive on seeing our clients at the top of the leaderboard. These results are a culmination of many years working behind the scenes: sail design; material selection; on the water testing; and developing accurate tuning guides. With one design sails in particular, the North team must work within strict class rules to model the masterpiece.

The most recent example of “everything coming together” is the 2021 420 Worlds, where North-powered teams swept the Mens-Mixed Division podium and claimed the majority of top three finishes in the Women’s and U17 divisions North Sails offers an extensive lineup of 420 sails, and the race results were not dominated by any single model. We asked two onsite North Sails experts to explain why so many different sail designs achieved such great results.

North Sails One Design expert Tom Sitzmann says that all the North Sails 420 designs are capable of winning. “It’s a question of the best fit for each particular team’s sailing style and weight. The best sails are easy to trim well, are consistently built, and offer durability. So you need to buy North Sails, because we have the sailing and design expertise, dedication, and passion to find the best fit for you.”

North Technology Group CEO Tom Whidden was also on the water in San Remo, cheering on his grandson Thomas who crewed for Freddie Parkin and took the world title in the U17 division. With his sailmaker’s eye, Tom shared his observations:

“The M-11 and M-9 are both very adjustable and very flexible from 0-18 knots, more than the Zaoli sails I observed—and even more dominant compared to the Olimpic sails in anything above 12 knots. All three sailmakers had jibs with similar twist profiles, although the non-North sails seemed to stretch more on the breezy day…..and consequentially, had less twist.”

“I thought North had the greatest edge downwind,” Whidden added. “North spinnakers project better, with slightly less curvature in the upper leeches. Both Sitzmann/Woodworth and Parkin/Whidden were able to sail deeper in all breezes.”

📸 Andrea Lelli

The Sail Design Loop

Both Sitzmann and Whidden were quick to compliment North Japan, which has dominated the 420 and 470 classes for two decades. Masanobu Katori (known as Nobu) is very busy preparing for the Olympic Games, but he took time to explain how important the 420 class is to Olympic 470 development. 

“In the upcoming Olympics, 100% of the 470 Women use North Sails exclusively, and 16 of the 19 Men’s teams have our sails. In the 420 class, many of the coaches are ex-470 sailors. Australian gold medalist Mathew Belcher tested our 420 sails to provide the crucial feedback during the product development cycle. Our sales manager, Kei, has been developing vast connections between the 420 and 470 class. So they know us and our products, and how well we can support their teams.”

Nobu says that 420 sail design is approached in the same methodical way as a Grand Prix program. “We have developed Spiral for dinghies, the same North Design Suite tool used for America’s Cup projects. We redesigned our two-boat testing system to suit small boats so we can better evaluate straight-line speed; to develop better designed sails, it is necessary to distinguish performance from race results. Of course, easy handling is also a key factor. 


📸 Andrea Lelli

“For good design, it is crucial to have good feedback. Based on that feedback, we re-design a sail, then manufacture and test it. The more you run this circle, the better sails you can have. People assume that in such an established class, there isn’t any room to develop. But every time you do this, you find something new—the cycle is never-ending.”

Sailors and coaches are a critical piece of this development loop, Nobu insists, though sometimes the words they use are different from a sailmaker’s. “Fortunately we have a team with experienced people, so we can discuss what they’re feeling and then follow a logical redesign path. Then it is easy to track and re-route the path if the sail does not perform as expected.”

The end goal is not to have a secret weapon, Nobu insists; it is to continue to improve the sails so 420 sailors can be confident in their speed. “This confidence is the big deal for every race, and we have been trying to provide it with good sails.” So whether it’s a 420 Worlds or your next Wednesday night beer can race, we’ve got the right sails for you. 

📸 Andrea Lelli